Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Literacy Strategies with Leveled Books for Grandparents Day

By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

Does your elementary school celebrate Grandparents Day? My grandpa reminisced about his visits to our elementary schools as long as he lived. He continued to ask to join us at school for this day even after we entered middle school and high school. Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September after Labor Day. This can be a great way to involve and get to know students’ families as you begin a new school year.

In preparation and celebration of Grandparents Day, teachers can connect Common Core State Standards to literacy strategies with fun leveled books. Students are eager to use reading comprehension strategies and writing skills when they can connect them to real-world experiences. Let’s explore some opportunities to engage students in literacy activities, get to know their families, and have fun!

Radar and Grandpa  from the Kaleidoscope Collection is a guided reading level C book. This is one of many books for kindergarten students or for first graders who may benefit from simple sentence structure. This book compares and contrasts a grandpa and his dog, Radar. Comparing and contrasting the experiences of characters is a Common Core State Standard for reading literature, which can be achieved with the following suggestions:  


  1. Begin by asking students to share with a partner about things their grandparents like to do. Allow a few students to share with the class.
  2. Ask students to share with a partner about their grandparents’ pets if applicable. Real world connections to a book helps engage students.
  3. Give students a purpose for reading: “Today I am going to read  Radar and Grandpa . Radar is Grandpa’s dog. Listen for ways that Grandpa and Radar are the same and ways they are different.”
  4. Read  Radar and Grandpa .
  5. Ask students to recall ways that Radar and Grandpa are the same and different. You can record these on a Venn diagram graphic organizer.  If students have a difficult time coming up with details from the book, you can write the details ahead of time on index cards. Then as you read each fact, such as “likes walking,” students can decide where to place it on a Venn diagram.

  6. Allow students the opportunity to connect these characters to their own experiences with grandparents. You could ask them to complete a Venn Diagram between the grandpa in the story and their own grandpa. Do they both have a dog? Do they both like to nap? If using this activity with kindergarten or first grade students, they can illustrate ideas instead of writing words.

No Rules  from the Kaleidoscope Collection is a narrative text about a little girl who visits her grandma. The grandma has fun with the granddaughter and allows her to change some conventional rules. For example, they eat ice cream before they eat their lunch! This is one of several leveled guided reading books at level D, which is appropriate for kindergarten or first grade students. It is also available in Spanish . Students can achieve the Common Core State Standard of identifying the main topic and key details of a text with the following tips:

  1. Ask students if there are special things they get to do when they go to their grandparents’ house. Do they get special treats? Do they have a later bedtime? etc.
  2. Introduce the book by showing the front cover and reading the title. Engage students in making predictions about the book by using one of these sentence stems, “I predict No Rules  will be about _____ because _____.” or “In the book No Rules , I predict _____ because _____.” Encourage students to draw from their own prior knowledge or the front cover.
  3. Set a purpose for reading, “Today we are going to read  No Rules . While I read, look for the author’s main idea. (What is every page about?) Also look for key details about that idea.”
  4. Read No Rules .
  5. After reading, engage students in retelling key events in the book. Guide students to the main idea from the second page: “Today is a No Rules Day. Grandma and I make our own rules.” Ask students to find key details in the book that support how Grandma and the granddaughter make their own rules.
  6. You can add these to a graphic organizer.
  7. Here are some suggestions of follow-up activities to this book:
a) Students can share, illustrate, or write about rules they would like to make with a grandparent that are different than their homes.
b) Students could write a letter to a grandparent asking if they can have a “No Rules Day” and tell the grandparent a few rules they want to change.
c) Students could complete a Venn diagram. On one side, students can list the rules the girl makes with her Grandma. On the other side, they can infer what the rules are at the girl’s home with her parents.

Tortilla Sundays , also from the Kaleidoscope Collection , is a level E narrative text about three children who go to their grandma’s house to make tortillas. It is best suited for first grade students. Hameray also offers this book in a big book version  and in Spanish . Retelling key events is a Common Core State Standard that this book can help students achieve with the following ideas:

    1. Begin by asking students if there’s anything they have cooked or made with a grandparent. Allow them to share with a partner.
    2. Ask them if they have eaten a tortilla. You may need to build background knowledge if they aren’t familiar with a tortilla. Afterward, ask them if anyone knows how to make a tortilla.
    3. Set a purpose for reading: Tell students that as you read the book, you’d like them to pay attention to the steps of making a tortilla.
    4. Read Tortilla Sundays .
    5. Discuss the story and the important steps for making a tortilla including the ingredients. Also discuss the setting (Grandma’s house on a Sunday morning). You can draw students’ attention to knowing that it’s morning because they are making the tortillas before lunch.
    6. Distribute a sequencing chart or a piece of paper folded into different boxes. You can do this with the whole class or students can complete it with a partner using their own book. Students can write sentences from the book or put the steps in their own words. Encourage them to use sequencing words. You can also include an illustrating component. Here’s an example of what students may write.
    7. Allow students to share their steps in pairs or small groups. This is great oral language practice.
    8. If you have a student in your class with a parent or grandparent who makes tortillas, invite them into class to do a demonstration. The tortillas would likely need to be cooked at the volunteer’s home, but students would love the experience of learning to make them and sampling them.

Families Big and Small   from the Fables & the Real World   collection discusses facts about families. This book talks about brothers, sisters, sharing, taking turns, etc. It also explains grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. This book would especially help second language students as they improve vocabulary of families. Another great detail about this book is its multitude of nonfiction text features (table of contents, headings, glossary, and index).

You could also use this book to address the Common Core State Standard of using context clues in both pictures and text to determine what new words mean. In connection with Grandparents Day, let’s explore a way to improve writing skills that allows students to share about their own families as the school year begins. Common Core Writing Standards for first graders include:

a) Recalling information from experiences and gathering information to answer a question. 
b) Write informational texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts on the topic, and provide some closure.
  1. Allow students a few minutes to share with a partner about the members in their immediate family. Then ask students to share about any extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents).
  2. Allow a few students to share and emphasize that all families are different. Families can be different sizes, have all sisters or all brothers, etc.
  3. Read Families Big and Small .
  4. Discuss the key ideas in the book. In preparation for a writing assignment, ask students who siblings, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are. Turn to the page associated with each title as you discuss it.
  5. Tell students that you want to find out more about their families. They will be writing an informative paragraph about their family to share with the class.
  6. Allow them prewriting time to draw a picture and label the members of their immediate family.
  7. Provide a graphic organizer to support paragraph structure.
  8. Since it is early in the year, work with students to develop a common topic sentence such as, “We read Families Big and Small . My family is _____ (big or small).”
  9. Guide students to write about each member of their family in a detail box. Encourage them to use their picture from the prewriting step.
  10. After students write about each member, gather together again to discuss how to provide closure to the paragraph. For example, “My family is special to me.” You can also opt for an open ending, “My family is _____.”
  11. Students can share at this point, or you can teach students how to transfer their graphic organizer into a written paragraph by indenting.
  12. Allow students to share. You may also want to hang up their paragraphs or graphic organizers along with their family pictures in your classroom.

At the beginning of the school year, students are eager to share about their families and to get to know their teachers better. As you explore many of the leveled books for kids from Hameray, consider how you can connect Grandparents Day to the many Common Core standards you are teaching. Involving grandparents is a bonus to any guided reading lesson!

Continue to check back often for more teaching tips! 


Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog .